Insights: Seniors are now travelling on vacation

Once the clocks are set to wintertime, the elderly part of the population likes to travel to warmer climes according to SOS International's statistics.

We in the Nordic countries live longer than ever before

Life expectancy for both men and women is going up and futurologists talk about a completely new segment, which they call ”seenagers”, a contraction of the words “seniors” and “teenagers”.

”Seenagers” are characterised, among other things, by their having many of the advantages that teenagers have, including more time and fewer obligations. This gives them more freedom and the opportunity to act driven by pleasure to a greater extent.

In addition, they stay healthy longer and physical disabilities, illness and the need for physical assistance now occur much later than before.

And then they take off to travel!

The development of life expectancy for Danes

The development of life expectancy for Swedes

The development of life expectancy for Norwegians

The development of life expectancy for Finns

Seniors travel at other times of the year

SOS International’s statistics also show that seniors suffer injuries in the same countries as the rest of the population. Spain, Turkey, Greece and Thailand are the most popular travel destinations and thus also the countries from which SOS International gets the greatest number of injuries to handle.

On the other hand, seniors usually travel at other times of the year than the rest of the population.

Young people and families with children are often bound by work and school and must follow the calendar year’s holiday season, whereas seniors have more free time to choose when they wish to travel during the year - and they usually do when it gets cold in the Nordic countries.

Top injury countries Nordic travellers 2018

Nordic travellers 2018

Read more tips for top travel destinations here

Spain Turkey Greece

Injury type

The incidence of chronic conditions increases with age and about a quarter of the chronically ill at 75 years have multimorbidity, i.e. simultaneous presence of several chronic conditions. So, although seniors do not necessarily get injured more frequently while travelling, in general, when the accident occurs and assistance is needed, costs tend to pile up and rise faster compared to cases involving younger travellers.

This is due to the type of injury, but just as much to the fact that there are often a number of other factors which must be taken into account in connection with the treatment such as, for example, existing or chronic conditions.

In addition, there may be more frequent adverse effects associated with the treatment, which in turn may also require treatment. Moreover, seniors’ rehabilitation time is typically longer than that of younger people, which is why the number of nights spent in hospital etc. is often higher.

These are all factors that contribute to increasing the total costs, as illustrated below.

Injury costs

SOS International’s statistics clearly show that senior travellers have a higher average price per service.

Example: Hip fracture

Younger patients (<60)

  • Simple intervention, carried out immediately
  • Few nights spent in hospital
  • Low risk of complications, one single disease
  • Less pain after a few days
  • Mobilised quickly
  • May be seated when transported home

Senior patients (>60)

  • Complex intervention, requires preparations
  • More nights spent in hospital
  • Higher risk of complications, multimorbidity
  • Pain for several days
  • Bedridden for a longer time
  • Home transport on stretcher or on ambulance plane

Do you need a medical pre-assessment?

Travel insurance policies cover only acute conditions and injuries that occur during the trip.

A medical pre-assessment tells you whether a chronic or current condition will also be covered on your trip in case you need treatment.

Can I travel?

SOS International’s physicians have extensive experience in assessing health problems related to international travel and they have the professional competencies, including aviation medicine competencies, required to assess whether a patient can withstand a trip and whether a patient’s condition will be covered.

“Can I travel” is a question often asked by seniors who are about to go on a trip.

In order to be able to answer this question, there are three different things that have to be taken into account:

1. Can the patient withstand the conditions in the aircraft’s pressurised cabin?

2. Can the patient withstand the conditions at the destination and what is the risk that their condition would get worse during their stay abroad?

3. Is the patient covered by travel insurance if they get ill on the trip?

Clinical doctors, including specialist doctors and general practitioners, are generally not trained in this area and
are therefore often unable to perform a comprehensive assessment.

SOS  International has a number of doctors with this special knowledge and can perform this overall medical pre-assessment.

It helps increase the patient’s safety, thereby minimising the risk of health problems on the trip, and the risk of illness development and home transport that are not covered by the patient’s insurance. 

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Seniors risk taking out double insurance

SOS International’s network department finds that in high-volume areas such as Spain, there can be clinics or hospitals offering subscription solutions or other solutions in addition to the travel insurance, particularly for seniors who perhaps have real property in the area or reside in the area for a longer period.

Many Scandinavian physicians also choose to settle down abroad and open a practice, and it is reassuring for the seniors to have a doctor in the vicinity, who speaks their own language. These offers may therefore be appealing to the seniors, who feel that they receive a ”family doctor” solution abroad, but the challenge is that they risk taking out a double insurance since they already have a travel insurance that can help them in case of acute need for medical assistance. And often the clinics will still activate the travel insurance and the bill ends up with the insurance companies regardless.

The best advice for travellers is to always make sure to contact SOS International’s alarm centre, if they need help. We have an extensive network of hospitals and clinics and will be able to refer you to the right place if needed. This also helps prevent overtreatment.

The above material was first released in the autumn of 2018. This is an update of the material as of September 2019.

Contact us

Are you travelling and in need of acute assistance?

Contact SOS International's alarm centre on +45 7010 5050.

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